Top 10 judgments by Justice Sathasivam
Justice Sathasivam, the 40th Chief Justice of India was elevated to the post of a Supreme Court Judge on 21st August 2007 from wherein the hon’ble judge retired from the highest judicial post on 26th April 2014 after holding it for a period of around 9 months. He has been succeeded by Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha. On a very humble pedestal, every judgment he penned down is definitely an ideal pronouncement upholding the rule of law in the country, yet this piece takes the liberty to comfine itself to compile 10 of his best.
The Supreme Court through Justice Sathasivam took suo motu cognizance of a horrific incident of gang rape of a young tribal woman by 13 villagers in West Bengal's Birbhum district. The court directed the district judge of Birbhum to visit the place and file a report before it within a week. The Court then in the landmark judgment directed the West Bengal government to pay Rs. Five lakh compensation in addition to already sanctioned Rs 50,000 to the 20-year-old victim.
Death penalty judgments
In a very important series of judgments starting from Shatrughan Chauhan case to commutation of death sentence to life imprisonment in Bhullar’s Curative Petition to stay on execution of Rajiv Gandhi’s Assassins to the reference made by Justice Sathasivam on his last day as CJI, the hon'ble judge heard society’s response about capital punishment becoming more and more judge centric in absence of proper guidelines to render a principled sentence and responded positively removing doubt revolving around the 'rarest of rare' jacket formula in delivering death as a punishment. Now, to award death penalty the judge has to check the detailed guidelines drafted by him.
A Constitution Bench headed by Justice Sathasivam in Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P held that registration of First Information Report is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation. If the information received does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether cognizable offence is disclosed or not. The Court also issued detailed guidelines regarding registration of FIR.
Among the most significant of Justice Sathasivam’s judgment was his order to include an option for “None of the Above” in EVMs. The bench headed by Justice Sathasivam pointed out that neutral voting was possible with paper ballots where an individual could place a blank ballot in the box. Overriding an argument that a negative vote was not a right, he said, “If introducing a NOTA button can increase the participation of democracy then, in our cogent view, nothing should stop the same. The voters’ participation in the election is indeed the participation in the democracy itself.” However, he clarified a month later that an overwhelming number of NOTA votes would not result in a fresh election.
Manual scavengers bear the brunt of what is among the most repressive caste practices in India. Considered untouchable even by other so-called untouchables, scavengers regularly clean human excreta from dry toilets. They are also the only caste to venture into sewage pipes without any protective gear. On 28th March 2014, Justice Sathasivam headed a three judge bench that granted Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the families of everyone who had died in sewers since 1993 in Safai Karamchari andonal v. UOI.
Justice Sathasivam in the Reliance gas dispute, emphasized upon the use of natural resources through public sector undertakings. He observed that “in a national democracy like ours, the national assets belong to the people” and “the government owns such assets for the purposes of developing them in the interests of the people". It was further held that natural resources are national assets owned by the people of India through the guardianship of the state.
Sanjay Dutt's Conviction in Mumbai Bomb blast case
Along with Justice B. S. Chauhan, Justice Sathasivam delivered the judgement in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, which involved the sentence for Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt to five years imprisonment under the Arms Act and to serve out the remainder of his sentence.
Resurgence India Case: The case which forced Mr. Narendra Modi to affirm his wife
In this case the Supreme Court through Justice Sathasivam ushered in a fresh dose of electoral reforms by ruling that no one can contest elections without making a full and honest disclosure about his/her assets and educational and criminal antecedents.
Curbing the practice among candidates to leave columns demanding information blank in the affidavits filed along with nomination papers, the court authorized returning officers to demand relevant details and reject nomination papers if the details are not furnished despite reminder. This judgment came from a bench of Justice Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, which appeared undeterred by lawmakers' protest in Parliament and attempt to undo the apex court's two landmark judgments delivered on July 10 - one disqualifying MPs and MLAs convicted in serious crimes and the other debarring arrested persons from contesting polls. Candidates left columns in affidavits blank to step around the SC's two earlier judgments - Association for Democratic Reforms in 2002 and People's Union for Civil Liberties in 2003 -- which mandated a contestant to furnish details of his criminal and educational antecedents as well as assets owned by him, his spouse and children.
Writing the judgment for the bench, CJI Sathasivam said in a vibrant and dynamic democracy like ours, a voter had the elementary right to know full particulars of a candidate who would represent him in Parliament. But the bench also provided the candidates with an alternative. "The candidate must take the minimum effort to explicitly remark as 'NIL' or 'not applicable' or 'not known' in the columns and not to leave the particulars blank, if he desires that his nomination paper be accepted by the returning officer," it said.
Justice Sathasivam, on 19 April 2010, decided and concluded the controversial and much hyped case of Jessica Lal Murder by allowing the conviction categorically stating that the prosecution had established their case beyond reasonable doubt.
The review petition filed by newspaper managements against the judgment upholding the recommendations made by Justice Majithia Wage Board hiking salaries for journalists and non-journalists in print media was dismissed by Justice Sathasivam. The 3 judge Bench held that there was no merit in the review petitions. Justice Sathasivam dismissed challenges filed by the managements of various newspapers. Supreme Court had in the original judgment upheld the validity of the Majithia wage board, stating that its proposal was based on a sincere consideration. Justice Sathasivam, also dismissed the newspaper organizations’ challenge to the constitutional validity of the Working Journalists & Newspaper Employees Act. It had held the recommendations of the wage boards were valid in law, based on authentic and satisfactory considerations and there was no valid ground for interference under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. It was held that the revised pay structure be given to the employees from November 11, 2011 when the government of India notified the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board.
Caricature by P.R.Rajan